Smart Remodeling Tips for 2017


This coming year promises to be a great one for homeowners and contractors alike. Smart homeowners should plan ahead to take advantage of favorable conditions.

Sure, interest rates are likely to go up, but they’re not expected to soar, and property values will almost certainly rise as well. This, coupled with an increasingly stronger economy and lower unemployment, means consumers will be feeling more confident, and those who own homes will once again have the discretionary income to improve them.

What should you do to make sure you get the most out of your home improvement efforts this year? Here are three tips:

  1. No Lollygagging! Good contractors will become busy quickly as more and more homeowners seek their services. Don’t wait until the last minute to get bids for your projects then choose your contractor and lock down a start date on their calendar. If you want a new kitchen or bathrooms for the holidays, now’s not too soon to start talking with licensed professionals.
  1. Pay as You Go. Debt is never a good idea, and it certainly isn’t wise when you have reason to believe – as we do currently – that interest rates are going up. At the very least, don’t get yourself into an adjustable rate loan to undertake home improvements. Better yet, save for those projects you want to do. Get some ballpark estimates soon then aggressively save to have the cash available when the job starts. Won’t that new kitchen seem sweeter if you’re not still paying for it in 2018?
  1. Be Mindful of ROI. There’s nothing wrong with undertaking home improvements simply because you want them, especially if you plan to stay in the home for a few years. However, you don’t want to throw your money away either. Remodeling Magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Guide is a great resource for determining which of your prospective home improvement projects will carry the highest return. The 2016 Guide listed attic insulation and door replacements as top for ROI. The 2017 guide should come out shortly. We’ll be sure to recap it for you here.

Wise homeowners look to “signs of the times” to make their projects smooth and cost-effective. Now, go forth and plan!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

New Year’s Resolutions for Homeowners

Now’s the time when our minds turn back, to review the year past, and forward, to resolve what we’ll do differently.  Be sure to leave room on your list for resolutions concerning your largest asset and the place you spend most of your time. Here are a few to get you started.

1. Resolve to Fix Dangerous Situations.

Sparking electrical outlets, drippy pipes, and a leaking roof – – these are all things you shouldn’t let go any longer. They’ll just get worse the longer you wait, and cost more to fix when you’re forced to deal with them after they give away completely. Gather your list of fixes and give us a call. We can get just the right repair professionals out to you in no time.

2. Resolve to Enjoy More and Fret Less.

You’ve spent a lot of time and money on this home. Remember the difficulty of choosing just the right paint color, the weeks of disruption while that addition was being built, or the years you spent saving up to put that screened porch on? Don’t be too busy to enjoy what you’ve created. Resolve to sit still daily, or at least weekly, in one of your beautiful rooms. Appreciate the memories it holds and the creativity that went into putting it together. Invite friends over to enjoy the front porch this coming spring, or play games in the finished basement while winter rages outside.

3. Resolve to Hire Out the Stuff You Hate.

I know, I know. No one cleans like you do. But, really, do you ever get to do it as thoroughly as you picture it in your imagination? And if you hate it, do you really want to spend hours of precious weekend time doing it? A regular cleaning service that comes every week or two will keep your house a lot more consistently clean that your cleaning efforts once every month or month and a half. Yard work and laundry can also be done by hired professionals, freeing up your schedule for things only you can do (like being a parent, spouse, or friend.) Sure, it’s not in everyone’s budget, but if it’s in yours, at least consider how much time it will give you back to be with the ones you love in the home you’ve created (see no. 1 above). If you’re looking for just the right housekeeping or yard professional, HomeWise can help.

4. Resolve to Enjoy Your Community.

Just like with your home, you put a lot of thought into the community where you settled. Here in the DC area, you’re likely to have parks, museums, libraries, walking trails, and theaters within a mile or two of your address.  Most of these things don’t cost a dime (except the tax money you’ve already paid.) Get out and enjoy them. They’re part of the reason your property values are so high.

Wise homeowners step off the hamster wheel long enough to enjoy what they have. Now, get out there and really live in the home and community you’ve worked so hard to attain.

Tips for a Hassle-Free Holiday Home


This is a post from last year, and some of the advice pertains to the whole holiday season which we know started in November. Still, there is a lot of holiday celebrating, and probably even some decorating, to come. These tips will help keep you sane and calm so you can enjoy your holiday home.

What is your home like at the holidays? The Cleavers’ (smiling perfection, at least by the end of every episode) or the Bundys’ (bickering and dysfunctional)?

Truth is, for most of us, reality is somewhere in between.

Here are a few tips to keep your November and December happy but not harried:

  1. Tame Your Inner Perfectionist. Wouldn’t you rather bake a few dozen cookies that everyone enjoys, then still have time for trimming the tree or putting up lights, than spend three days dressed in an apron and coated with flour, with no energy left to hang a wreath?
  2. Get Organized. Yeah, I know. Nag, nag, nag. But those gifts you’ll get have to go somewhere. Take time now to make room. If you’ve not touched it in 12 months, you neither want nor need it. Hold a yard sale, and you could end up with a head start on your holiday shopping fund.
  3. Take On Small Fixes.  Those annoying little things you still haven’t fixed will not be pleasant for your houseguests. In my house, we have one-half the kitchen sink, one bathroom faucet, and one shower drain in need of repair. You can bet I have a plumber (licensed, insured . . . duh!) lined up to come before my dad arrives for Thanksgiving in a couple weeks. Get your fireplace and chimney inspected so they can safely add warmth and ambience to your holidays. If your appliances are acting up, get them fixed before the heavy cooking begins. In fact, many things (broken door handles, missing knobs, cracked exteriors) can be fixed easily and cheaply if you order the part and install it yourself (but leave the mechanical stuff to the experts and NEVER attempt to fix a gas-powered appliance; that is a job for a licensed, insured gasfitter ONLY!).
  4. Decorate Smart for High Impact With Less Effort. Don’t spend so much time decking every hall that you’re too exhausted to enjoy family and friends. Rather, just concentrate on two or three areas. A well-decorated tree, greens-draped banister, and welcoming front entry will have a greater impact than all of your knick-knacks scattered throughout the house.
  5. Don’t Go it Alone! This is the voice of experience. I spent a few years decorating my tail off while the fam “relaxed” around me, only to finish exhausted and resentful. Turns out, the kids were happy to help, and we had so much more fun doing it together. Similarly, if you’re having a crowd to your house for dinner, let everyone bring something. If you really want to do all the cooking (and I, for one, can’t imagine why you would), allow others to provide the centerpiece or drinks.
  6. Plan for January! Sad but true: eventually, the presents and decorations have to be put away (don’t be that neighbor with lights up in July!) If you’ve followed tip 2 above, present-stowing will be a breeze. But, you can make the de-decorating process easier, too, if you plan ahead. As you’re decorating in the next few weeks, get rid of anything broken, outdated, or simply unused in the last couple of years. Toss broken-down storage boxes and replace them with sturdier ones.
  7. Dream a Little. When your mom asks what’s on your wish-list, she really wants to know. If you don’t tell her, you might end up with stuff you’ll be getting rid of next year (see tip 2 above). Don’t be too proud to tell people exactly what you want (my husband has yet to come through with that new Mercedes, but I’m not ashamed to keep asking). The kids will love this part – – but you might have to manage expectations if their list consists exclusively of designer clothing and pricey electronics.
  8. Simplify Gift-Giving Within the Extended Family. Now’s about the right time to suggest name-drawing among cousins, or adult siblings and their spouses. Put everyone’s name in a hat, and let each person draw for the one person they’ll purchase a gift for. You could add a price limit, or present category like books or music. Alternatively, forego the presents among extended family members altogether in favor of a shared experience – – maybe you all take in Mount Vernon by Candlelight, go see a Nutcracker performance together, or “adopt” a family in need by providing them holiday food or presents.
  9. Don’t  Break the Bank. You’d be surprised how you can stay within a budget if you make one. On the other hand, without a budget, you’re almost sure to be paying for this December’s purchases on the credit cards next year. Don’t forget to budget for necessary holiday home repairs (see tip 3 above).

Bottom line: A little planning now can ensure your home is peaceful as well as festive this holiday season.

Now, go forth and celebrate smartly!


Homeowners have an advantage over others in the happiness department. Why?

First, regularly counting one’s blessings is a key to greater happiness. No less an authority than Harvard Health Publications puts it this way:

In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.

Secondly, if you’re a homeowner, you have more reasons to be grateful than others do. We already got you started on your “thankfulness list” with last week’s blog.

Here are two more reasons to rejoice that you own real property:

  1. You’re Wealthier Than You Think.

Studies show homeowners’ net worths range from 31 – 46 times that of renters.

One huge reason for this is price appreciation which, on real estate, trends upward over time if you buy and hold your property. As an example, if you purchased a home in a stable neighborhood in Alexandria, VA in 1990 for $250,000, it would have appreciated to $697,635 – – a 179% increase! – – by 2007.

Yes, property values tanked in 2007, but they’re back up again which, if you study history, was predictable (note “if you buy and hold” above.)

  1. You Have a Shield Against the Taxman.

Homeowners can deduct mortgage interest from income on their annual tax returns. This is a huge boost to your wallet while you have to carry a mortgage. But please note that phrase “while you have to carry a mortgage.” Mortgage debt is usually the only way folks can afford something as large as a home. Don’t buy into the idea, though, that its benefits make it desirable. If you have a 3% rate on a $200,000 mortgage, you pay $6,000 per year in interest. If you earn the DC area’s average $100,000 annual income this puts you at about a 30% federal tax rate which means you get to put back into your pocket through tax deductions about $2,000 of the $6,000 home mortgage interest you spent. In absolute terms, spending $6,000 to save $2,000 is foolish but, if you have no choice but to spend the $6,000 anyway (that is, you can only purchase a home if you take out a mortgage), getting $2,000 of it back is a pretty good deal.

Wise homeowners count their blessings. Now, go forth and feast gratefully this Thanksgiving!

Image courtesy of Becris at

Election Aftermath, and What it Means for DC Area Homeowners

Whether you’re pleased with the outcome of the presidential election or not, if you own a home in the DC Metro area you have a lot of things to be happy about this Thanksgiving season.  Here are two:

  1. Out With the Old, In With The New

New office-holders mean new staff. Most of these folks will be entering our Washington DC Metro area for the first time as residents and they’ll be buying homes, sometimes from outgoing staffers. This regular influx of new residents and real estate turnover is one of the reasons this area doesn’t experience the extreme losses in home values that are suffered in other parts of the country during economic downturns.  So, homeowners who are staying put should be grateful for what that means for their property values, those who are selling can appreciate that they’ll not find themselves “on the market” for long, and HomeWise is just pleased to connect folks to contractors for pre-sale repairs or post-sale renovations.

  1. Peaceful Transitions of Power, and the Celebrations That Come With Them

You may have lived here long enough to no longer view the inauguration as “special”. Don’t forget, though, that the rest of the country isn’t so jaded. A lot of people from other areas will want to experience the January excitement and they will find lodging hard to come by, the president-elect’s new downtown hotel notwithstanding,  This presents a great opportunity for DC area homeowners to make some extra cash. You can avoid the hullabaloo by leaving town to visit relatives or relaxing on vacation and make money while you’re gone by renting your home to those coming in to catch the festivities (try listing services like VRBO or Airbnb).

Wise homeowners understand that property ownership can be a benefit in any political climate. Now, go forth and dwell thankfully.

Image courtesy of coward_lion at

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